Opinion: ‘Diversity’ focus drags down education

April 5, 2013


— The real vocation of some people entrusted with delivering primary and secondary education is to validate this proposition: The three R’s — formerly reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic — now are racism, reproduction and recycling. Especially racism. Consider Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction. It evidently considers “instruction” synonymous with “propaganda,” which in the patois of progressivism is called “consciousness-raising.”

Wisconsin’s DPI, in collaboration with the Orwellian-named federal program VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America; the “volunteers” are paid), urged white students to wear white wristbands “as a reminder about your privilege, and as a personal commitment to explain why you wear the wristband.” A flyer that was on the DPI website and distributed at a DPI-VISTA training class urged whites to “put a note on your mirror or computer screen as a reminder to think about privilege,” to “make a daily list of the ways privilege played out” and to conduct an “internal dialogue” asking questions such as “How do I make myself comfortable with privilege?” and “What am I doing today to undo my privilege?”

After criticism erupted, the DPI removed the flyer from its website and posted a dishonest statement claiming that the wristbands were a hoax perpetrated by conservatives. But, again, the flyer DPI posted explicitly advocated the wristbands. And Wisconsin’s taxpayer-funded indoctrination continues, funded by more than Wisconsin taxpayers.

In Delavan-Darien High School’s “American Diversity” curriculum, students were urged to verify white privilege by visiting a Wal-Mart toy section and counting the white and black dolls. After objections, the school district is reconsidering this curriculum.

Such distractions from the study of calculus and literature are encouraged by CREATE Wisconsin (the acronym stands for Culturally Responsive Education for All: Training and Enhancement), which is funded with federal tax dollars from IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The disability being rectified here is, presumably, the handicap of insufficient guilt — arising from false consciousness — about white privilege.

Today the school systems in 20 states employ more non-teachers than teachers. The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice reports that between 1950 and 2009, while the number of K-12 students increased 96 percent, full-time equivalent school employees increased 386 percent. The number of teachers increased 252 percent, but the number of bureaucrats — including consciousness-raising sensitivity enforcers and other non-teachers — increased 702 percent. The report says states could have saved more than $24 billion annually if non-teaching staff had grown only as fast as student enrollment. And Americans wonder why their generous K-12 financing (higher per pupil than all but three of the 34 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nations) has done so little to improve reading, math and science scores.

Higher education, from which much of such diversity and sensitivity nonsense trickles down, cries poverty while spending lavishly on administrative overhead irrelevant to its teaching and research missions. The Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald notes that in 2011, while the University of California at San Diego was pruning academic offerings, it created a “vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion” to augment a diversity apparatus that included an assistant vice chancellor for diversity; faculty advisers, staff, graduate and undergraduate diversity coordinators and liaisons; a director of development for diversity initiatives; the Committee on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Issues; the Diversity Council; the Campus Council on Climate, Culture and Inclusion; and much more. Perhaps tens of millions could be diverted from progressive gestures to academic purposes by abolishing on every American campus every administrative position whose title contains the words “diversity,” “equity,” “race,” “ethnicity,” “sustainability,” “green,” “gender,” “inclusion,” “identity,” “interconnectivity,” “globalization,” “climate,” “campus climate,” “cross-cultural” or “multiculturalism.”   

No corner of the country is immune to propaganda pretending to be pedagogy. Lincoln Brown of KVEL Radio in Vernal, Utah, says one student from the University of Utah showed him required reading that told students to “list ways your family may have colluded with or benefited from the exploitation of African-Americans.” Another reading was titled “White Privilege — Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” 

Twenty-five years ago, President Reagan, paraphrasing Education Secretary William Bennett, said: “If you serve a child a rotten hamburger in America, federal, state and local agencies will investigate you, summon you, close you down, whatever. But if you provide a child with a rotten education, nothing happens, except that you’re liable to be given more money to do it with.” But only until the soaring tuitions and taxes that fund this featherbedding for administrators of political correctness create a critical mass of parental and taxpayer disgust.

— George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


Ken Lassman 4 years, 11 months ago

Wha??? Once again, Mr. Will seems to be slipping down the slope of ideology that has little if anything to do with reality. Let's see:

-a cursory look at the DPI website and the VISTA/Americorps project that they have has absolutely nothing to do with state educational standards in math, science or any other state academic goal, all of which seem quite appropriate in their emphasis of reading, writing and 'rithmatic. The purpose of the VISTA project appears to be to provide support for students, teachers and families in low income neighborhoods so they can focus on reading, writing and 'rithmatic. Many of the VISTA volunteers probably don't come from disadvantaged neighborhoods, and the so-called consciousness raising that has Mr. Will's panties so twisted up is probably a very good idea to help those volunteers get a better idea of how they can provide better supports in those neighborhoods. So his accusation that it's a diversion from the 3 R's is just stupid.

-How does a federally funded IDEA grant take money away from the state--or other federal programs--that would go to supporting the 3 R's? Answer's simple: it doesn't. So Mr. Will's screed against the CREATE and IDEA projects are just hot air with no substance. These funding pots are completely independent from each other.

-somehow the "white priviledge" curriculum somehow translates into being the cause of bloated administrative wings of local and state education systems in Mr. Will's brain. How that convoluted reasoning is done is a wonder of modern science, I guess.

Mr. Will seems perfectly happy with the idea that the purpose of school is to make compliant worker bees/ants out of our children and stop with that. No need to address the social ills of our country or prepare them with good conflict resolution/facilitation skills that are central to being successful in a diverse and global economic world. No need to learn how to self organize to improve your neighborhood, community or city. Just get down those 3 R's and shut up.

Frankly, I'm quite weary of Mr. Will's bellicose attitudes which seems to be getting more curmudgeonly as the years go on. I think it's time for the JW to put this tired, grumpy horse out to pasture.

chootspa 4 years, 11 months ago

They won't put that tired, grumpy horse to the pasture until the tired, grumpy newspaper owner stops sharing his opinion.

Kathy Theis-Getto 4 years, 11 months ago

Teaching privilege is incredibly important in any context. White privilege, male privilege, American privilege, class privilege. They are all topics that we like to ignore because they point out something about ourselves or our background that is not so appealing. Its not about feeling guilty. Its about recognizing your place in society, recognizing that you benefit from a system that has granted you enormous amounts of privilege.

Instead of wasting that energy by feeling guilty, do something. Listen to people who are different than you. Learn everything you can. When your white friends say racist stuff, challenge them on it. Educate others. Treat others with humanity.

chootspa 4 years, 11 months ago

He does realize that VISTA existed well before his beloved Reagan took office, doesn't he?

deec 4 years, 11 months ago

VISTA and Americorps members are not paid an hourly wage. They are required to work at least 40 hours per week and are on call 24 hours per day. They are not allowed to hold other employment while in the program. They receive a monthly stipend so they don't have to be homeless while volunteering. It's currently around $800 per month. They also receive a lump sum at the end of their year which can be used to pay off student loans.

tomatogrower 4 years, 11 months ago

Will and his kind are privileged and they want to keep it that way, so they don't want anyone to pay attention, because "those people" might want some of that privilege. Being white in our society has always been a privilege. I am never followed when I go shopping. I haven't been pulled over by the police for no reason at all. I do have to listen to racist jokes from people like Will, until I tell them to shut up.

voevoda 4 years, 11 months ago

George Will proposes "abolishing on every American campus every administrative position whose title contains the words “diversity,” “equity,” “race,” “ethnicity,” “sustainability,” “green,” “gender,” “inclusion,” “identity,” “interconnectivity,” “globalization,” “climate,” “campus climate,” “cross-cultural” or “multiculturalism.” "

I guess that George Will wants to return school and university curriculums to 1950.

Paul R Getto 4 years, 11 months ago

More like 1850, just like 31% Sam is doing to Kansas.

Bill Getz 4 years, 11 months ago

Political correctness is indeed a crock, and our schools should abandon their lobby-driven preoccupation with "diversity" in favor of a curriculum that stresses common bonds and consensus rather than Balkanizing American history. However, George Will, who can write a good baseball column when he wishes, does the critique a serial disservice with his precious, smart-aleky prose style and his excessive beating of a warhorse that still has considerable life in it.

voevoda 4 years, 11 months ago

Why do you prefer a "politically correct" curriculum that denies diversity instead of one that embraces diversity? Do you think that pretending that all Americans are alike and that we have always achieved consensus isn't equally inaccurate and politically biased?

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